The Creative Edge of Collecting: The “Nothing” of William Davies King

The Creative Edge of Collecting: The “Nothing” of William Davies King

Sun, 03/01/2020 - 8:00am to Fri, 06/05/2020 - 5:00pm
Mountain Gallery
UCSB Library

In 2008, UCSB Theater professor William Davies King confronted his lifelong practice of collecting things of little or no value in his book Collections of Nothing (U. of Chicago Press). Since then, he has transformed the idle collecting of ephemera into something enduring and creative—a story, a teaching, a work of art. He offers this exhibit to the creative imagination of its viewers, with a nod to those who are intrigued by the quirky things professors do.

Professor King’s course, Collectors and Collecting, has reached hundreds of UCSB students with the message that collecting can be meaningful, therapeutic, and beautiful, even if the objects are as trivial as the little squares that say “Place Stamp Here.” He also pays attention to the hunters of first editions and rare jazz albums, and those who pursue (like Andy Warhol) cookie jars.

You will find a collection in nearly every American household: some virtual (e.g. Pinterest), some conceptual (e.g. palindromes); some stashed in the basement, some proudly displayed. People tend to collect, and collecting works with a kind of value different from that seen in the marketplace.

What King has done is confront the social and psychological impulses to collect, and also the eye-opening possibilities of what one might assemble. This exhibit surveys the range of his efforts to think through the world by holding on to its least-prized fragments. In some cases, his collecting is mere accumulation. In others, he creates a special place—a frame—for how the world’s stuff can be appreciated. And in some cases, he transforms his collected material into a form of collage.

This exhibition has been curated by Jasmine Bushehry and Rhiannon Gonzales, two students in UCSB’s Museum Studies program.

On April 2, Professor King will give a talk at the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center (IHC) at UCSB, using the same title as this exhibition. He will be on a panel with Professor Rebecca Falkoff of New York University, an expert on Italian literature, as well as on the phenomenon of hoarding. She will give a talk entitled “An Oikos for Everything: Hoarding against Waste.” The talk begin at 4:00 p.m., and a discussion will follow. 
That same evening at 8:00 p.m., also at the IHC, there will be a staged reading of Professor King’s new play, Collections of Nothing More or Less, which is part adaptation of, part sequel to his book. All these events are free and open to the public. 
This exhibition has been curated by Jasmine Bushehry and Rhiannon Gonzales, two undergraduate students in UCSB’s Museum Studies program.
William Davies King is a scholar of theater history and has published numerous books and articles, including Henry Irving’s “Waterloo,” which won the Joe A. Callaway Award for Best Book on Theater. His recent work has concentrated on the Nobel Prize-winning playwright Eugene O’Neill, and his multimedia edition of O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night won the 2016 PROSE award for Best Book in Literary Studies. He has been the dramaturg of numerous O’Neill plays and recently was a Travis Bogard Artist in Residence at Tao House, in Danville, California, where O’Neill lived during the peak years of his career. Professor King is grateful to Alex Regan of UCSB Library for sponsoring this exhibition and to Susan Derwin and the staff of the IHC for coordinating those events.